Hollywood Oscar campaigners earn their big bucks for figuring out the best possible way to not only gain an Oscar nomination, but actually take home a gold statue. Squadrons of reps all over town are huddled in anxious groups trying not to make any mistakes for their clients. That’s how Viola Davis ended up in supporting for Denzel Washington’s two-hander “Fences,” for which she previously earned the Best Actress Tony on Broadway, and on her third go-round at the Academy Awards, won her first Oscar.
And that’s why Fox Searchlight took so long this year to decide, finally, to campaign for British actress Olivia Colman for Best Actress for three-hander “The Favourite,” pushing her Oscar-winning costars Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz into supporting.
Now Paramount is borrowing a page from the “Spotlight” playbook and putting their entire “A Quiet Place” ensemble in supporting. That includes the two leads, director-star John Krasinski, and his wife Emily Blunt, and their on-screen children, played by Noah Jupe and Millicent Simmonds.
Why do that? Well, Blunt plays the title role in a little Disney family holiday film, “Mary Poppins Returns.” Her reps want to save her a Best Actress slot for the role originated by Julie Andrews in 1965 (she won Best Actress). Blunt is more likely to land a Golden Globe, assuming the Hollywood Foreign Press Association allows another case of category fraud to go forward: “A Star Is Born” is submitting for Drama, not Musical, along with “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
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In 2016, “Spotlight” landed six nominations, including two supporting nods for Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams, but lead Michael Keaton was left out; the movie only won two, Best Picture and Original Screenplay. Paramount is also being realistic about “A Quiet Place’: the best shots for the film are in the tech categories.
Other recent cases of questionable Oscar categories: while six-time Oscar nominee Glenn Close (she is overdue) is clearly one of two leads in “The Wife,” Sony Pictures Classics is running Jonathan Pryce, who plays her equally powerful husband, in supporting. Close won’t have to worry about Oscar perennial Natalie Portman, who is chasing her fourth Oscar nomination and second win (after “Black Swan”) for Neon’s Toronto pick-up “Vox Lux.” She’s campaigning for supporting, arguably because she plays the story’s grown-up pop star in the film’s second half.
Also in supporting is New Zealand discovery Thomasin Mckenzie, who shares the screen equally with better-known but never nominated Ben Foster in Debra Granik’s critically hailed “Leave No Trace.”
The supporting actor category is getting crowded: also going supporting is Mahershala Ali (who won the Oscar for a much slimmer role in “Moonlight”) in “Green Book,” while Viggo Mortensen goes lead, and Paul Giamatti, who stars opposite Best Actress candidate Kathryn Hahn in Tamara Jenkins’ “Private Life.”